Engaging the media

To the outsider, the media can seem chaotic and complex. Start here to harness the media to promote your work.

Identify your local media

The media connects people and organisations across the community with similar interests and concerns.

By working with the media you can raise awareness of your work and build on your success. Journalists want to hear real stories from real people: both your plans, and your progress, to prevent and reduce the alcohol and other drug (AOD) harm in your community.

Do your homework

Do you know all the media outlets in your area? There are commercial and community newspapers, television and radio stations, in most areas. And then there’s leveraging social media too.

Assess each one: what are they writing and talking about? Over the course a week for instance, what kinds of stories are they covering? Who are they ‘speaking’ to? What catches your eye – headlines, photos, personal stories?

Be realistic

It may happen, but it’s unlikely that the ABC’s 7.30 Report will want to cover your story two weeks into your project. Start small. Build coverage in your community and then use it to spread the word to a wider audience.

Building relationships

Once you’ve identified all your local media options, make a list of key contacts within each. For example, the newspaper reporter who covers health or youth stories, or the morning radio presenter who has a weekly segment on community issues.

Each outlet will also have a different audience (or communities) that it speaks to. Communities you may want to target.

For example, community radio stations often have programs that cater for particular ethnic groups, people with particular interests, or specific age brackets – including seniors or teenagers.

Having done this, call these outlets to introduce yourself to these contacts. Talk to them about your LDAT and ask if you can meet for a coffee. Be genuine, tell them about yourself, what you’re doing and why it’s important. Media outlets are increasingly busy, so be prepared to go to them when organising a place to meet.

Confirm what you (think you) know. Talk about what they’re working on, what they’re interested in, and what their needs are from you in terms of information.

Don’t assume they’re particularly knowledgeable, let alone an expert on AOD issues. In short, make a point of asking them their understanding and their experience reporting in this area.

If they are less experienced for instance, they may appreciate guidance from you on appropriate language. For example, not using terms like ‘junkies’, ‘addicts’ and ‘alcoholics’. (Terms like this often deepen a sense of shame for those who use alcohol and other drugs. This can drive AOD use further ‘underground’; and hamper efforts to reduce its harms within your target group).

Most importantly, establish with your new media contacts their preferred way of staying in touch.

How often would they like to hear from you? When are their deadlines? What are their lead times? If you have an event on 3 October, how far in advance would they like to hear from you?

Depending on if you’re talking to metro, suburban, or regional media, offer to meet the journalist for a coffee. It might be harder to secure a coffee meeting with a metro journalist, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go! Face-to-face chats are always better than having a ‘cold-call’ conversation.

Writing a media release

Writing a strong media release takes practice. Consider these media release questions:

  • What is the appropriate tone and language to use?
  • What’s your ‘hook’ or lead line?
  • Who to quote in the media release?
  • Do you need more than one spokesperson?
  • What are the key points you want to get across?
  • Are there websites you want to link to?
  • What is your ‘call to action’?
  • Are you providing a photo?
  • Who is the media contact?
  • Do you need a logo/s on the media release?
  • Who needs to approve the media release?

Write your first release

Learn the basics by downloading the “How to write a media release” template:

Help for Local Drug Action Teams (LDAT) engaging local media

Use these templates to help draft media releases around different events, including announcing the formation of your team, additional funding for your LDAT, the launch of a project or the promotion of a community meeting.

How to respond to the media

The local media may approach members of your team to get a comment or quote related to your work, or on another AOD issue.

Once you’ve established your LDAT and begun your project, the local media may approach members of your team to get a comment or quote related to your work, or on another AOD issue. Tips for responding to media enquiries for LDATs gives guidance not just for LDATs but all community groups engaging with media.

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